State Department ‘deeply disturbed’ by latest Chechnya anti-LGBTI crackdown

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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The State Department on Jan. 17 said it is “deeply disturbed” by reports that indicate at least two people have been killed and upwards of 40 others have been detained in the latest anti-LGBTI crackdown in Chechnya.

“We are deeply disturbed by credible reports out of Chechnya about renewed attacks against individuals perceived to be members of the LGBTI community,” said Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino in a statement.

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Advocacy groups mark International Human Rights Day

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Advocacy groups in the U.S. and around the world on Dec. 10 used the 70th annual International Human Rights Day to reaffirm their calls for LGBTI rights.

“Today on the 70th Human Rights Day, we celebrate the global recognition that every human being is born with basic human rights and dignity that should never be violated,” said Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb in a statement. “Yet, as an LGBTQ community, we still have a long way to go to achieving that goal. We need look no further than the humanitarian crisis happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, where the Trump-Pence administration is shamefully rejecting those who are fleeing violence in Central America — a good number of whom are members of the LGBTQ community. From Chechnya to Egypt to Indonesia, we will not stop until every member of our community, anywhere in the world, is safe, secure, and truly free and equal.”

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Trump to nominate Heather Nauert as next US ambassador to UN

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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President Trump on Dec. 7 said he will nominate State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert to succeed outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

Nauert, a former Fox News reporter, has been with the State Department since 2017.

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Biden urged to run in 2020 at Human Rights Campaign dinner

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Attendees at the annual Human Rights Campaign national dinner Saturday night urged Joseph Biden to challenge President Trump in 2020 amid speculation the former vice president is mulling a run for the White House.

As Biden approached the podium at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, he was greeted with calls of “Run, Joe, Run!” and “2020!” In response, Biden didn’t convey any thoughts about the upcoming presidential election, but thanked the audience and proceeded with his remarks.

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LGBT advocates outraged over Trump’s deference to Putin

By : Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National LGBT Media Association
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ABOVE: U.S. President Donald Trump faced criticism after his Helsinki news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin (Screen capture via YouTube)

The news conference that followed President Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki led to jaw-dropping reactions across the globe, including from LGBT advocates and observers who say it had a negative impact on LGBT rights despite Trump’s backpedaling days later.

Trump on Monday appeared alongside Putin at a news conference and sided with the Russian leader over the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies and the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, which led to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russians who implemented the plan.

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HRC joins protest against Trump, Putin before Finland summit

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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The Human Rights Campaign on Sunday urged President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to publicly condemn the ongoing anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya during their summit in Finland.

The organization specifically projected onto the side of the Presidential Palace in the Finnish capital of Helsinki where the meeting took place on Monday slogans that read, among other things, “Trump and Putin: Stop the crimes against humanity in Chechnya” and “The whole world is watching.” The projections also urged Putin to “investigate LGBTQ persecution” in Chechnya and to “bring the perpetrators to justice.”

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2016 was the worst year ever, and 2017 was the year we found our footing

By : Jeremy Williams
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In these very pages one year ago we proclaimed 2016 to be the worst year ever. It started off with so much promise and optimism, with the official passing of the torch as the former owner of Watermark turned the reins over to new owner Rick Claggett and Watermark Media became Watermark Publishing Group.

President Barack Obama was heading into the final year of his second term and everything seemed in place for another torch to be passed, that of the first black president passing the country off to the first female president.

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Watermark’s Top headlines of 2017

By : Watermark Staff
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2017 was a roller coaster of a year. Our highs were marked with great achievements and big celebrations, and our lows were filled with the passing of great LGBTQ leaders and fear-filled headlines we thought we would never read.

Below we look back on the top 5 LGBTQ headlines out of Central Florida, Tampa Bay, from the state of Florida and across the nation, and the world.

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U.S. sanctions Chechnya officials behind anti-gay crackdown

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: The U.S. has used the Magnitsky Act to sanction Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov over human rights abuses in the semi-autonomous Russian republic. Photo by Alexxx1979; courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. on Wednesday imposed sanctions against two Chechen officials under a 2012 human rights law.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and Ayub Kataev of the Chechen Internal Affairs Ministry are among the five Russian citizens who have been added to the list of those sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act, which freezes the assets of Russians who commit human rights abuses and bans them from entering the U.S. The law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after authorities arrested him after he investigated a $230 million tax fraud scheme.

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Prominent activist heckles Russian ambassador over Chechnya

By : MICHAEL K. LAVERS of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National LGBT Media Association
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A prominent activist on Wednesday heckled Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. over the anti-LGBT crackdown in Chechnya.

A video posted to Michael Petrelis’ Facebook page shows him shouting “Stop killing gay Chechens” at Anatoly Antonov as he was delivering a speech at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

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Canadian group resettles LGBT refugees from Chechnya

By : Helen Parshall of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National LGBT Media Association
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ABOVE: Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell. His organization has resettled nearly 50 LGBT Chechens. (Photo courtesy of Kimahli Powell)

Kimahli Powell hopes that with international eyes on the crisis of LGBT people fleeing Chechnya, a light can be shed on the plight of LGBT refugees around the world.

Powell is the executive director of Rainbow Railroad, an organization based in Canada that works to help “LGBT people who have faced physical violence or face an imminent threat of violence, imprisonment or death” find safety.

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Senate unanimously approves Chechnya resolution

By : MICHAEL K. LAVERS of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National LGBT Media Association
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The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution that condemns the ongoing crackdown against LGBT people in Chechnya.

U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the resolution earlier this year. The U.S. House of Representatives in June unanimously approved a nearly identical resolution that U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced.

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